A Ghanaian writer and dramatist of international renown, Efua Sutherland (1924 – 1996) was also a teacher, scholar, and cultural activist. From the 1950’s to the 1990’s she was in the forefront of literary and theatrical movements in Ghana. Amongst the key cultural institutions she was instrumental in establishing were the Ghana Society of Writers, the literary magazine Okyeame, the Ghana Drama Studio, the Kodzidan Story House for the preservation of oral literature and the W.E.B. Du Bois Memorial Center for Pan African Culture.
Devoted to building indigenous models of excellence in culture and education, she served as mentor and inspiration to many notable African personalities in the arts and professions, including writer Ama Ata Aidoo, film maker Kwaw Ansah and writer-illustrator Meshak Asare.
Auntie Efua, as she was affectionately known, made children’s issues central to her life and work. After pioneering an indigenous movement in writing, publishing and development through drama for children, she was appointed in the 1980’s to lead Ghana to become the first country to ratify the U.N. Convention on the Declaration of Rights of the Child. Through the work of the Ghana National Commission on Children, of which she was a founding member and Chair, several initiatives for children were moved forward including the Children’s Park Library Complex network, Child Literacy and Mobile Science Laboratory projects, as well as the commissioning of extensive research on the Ghanaian child.
Her work received recognition from both the state and major agencies such as the Valco Trust Fund, the Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation, UNICEF and UNESCO. Other significant supporters included Arthur and Ruth Sloan, the Arthur and Dorothy Clift family of Bromley, UK, Dr. Vivian O. Windley, Merle Worth, the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, USA and the Children’s Television Network.
Efua T. Sutherland was born in Cape Coast, Ghana, and attended Saint Monica’s School and Teacher Training College as well as Homerton College in Cambridge, England and the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.
A twelve-acre space reserved for a children’s park in central Accra through the advocacy of Efua Sutherland was renamed posthumously in her honor.
Efua Sutherlandstraat is one of a number of streets in an area of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, named for remarkable women writers and activists.